Today in History: October 1
Home Run Kings
Why, I heard a guy say once that he'd rather see a man put out attemptin' a scientific play than see him make a home run. What do you think o' tommy rot like that? He'd rather see it, maybe, but I wouldn't have it on any team o' mine…
"Homerun Haggerty on Intricacies of Scientific Baseball,"
The Washington Times,
May 28, 1905.
On October 1, 1961, Roger Maris slammed home run number sixty-one into the stands. In the last game of the regular season, Maris broke the long-standing 1927 record of baseball legend Babe Ruth for the most home runs in a single season. Fans loyal to Ruth criticized Maris. They argued that Ruth hit 60 home runs in a 154-game schedule, while Maris hit only 59 home runs in the first 154 games of the season, not reaching 61 home runs until game 162, the last of the newly lengthened season. Attempting to avoid controversy, baseball commissioner Ford Frick ruled that Maris did not break Ruth's record. Instead, Frick held that Ruth and Maris owned separate records for, respectively, the most home runs in a 154- and 162-game season. During the next three decades it nevertheless became common, yet unofficial practice for an asterisk to be attached next to Maris' home run total in record books. In 1991, Major League Baseball's Committee for Statistical Accuracy ended this practice by asserting that no asterisk or other special designation should be used to qualify Maris' achievement.
Maris' record stood for thirty-seven years until it too was broken by both Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs within days of each other in September 1998. Sosa finished the 1998 season with sixty-six home runs, while Mark McGwire established the new single season home run record with seventy. In 2001, Barry Bonds surpassed McGwire's mark by hitting seventy-three home runs.
Considered an outstanding outfielder, a superb base runner, and a fine team player, Maris played on three World Series championship teams, twice with the New York Yankees and once with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Popularly regarded as the greatest baseball team ever assembled, the 1927 New York Yankees team was referred to as "Murderer's Row." The heavy-hitting lineup included Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, Tony Lazzeri, Joe Dugan, and Pat Collins. The Yankees reached the World Series after winning the American League pennant by nineteen games and won the championship by sweeping Pittsburgh four games to none. The Yankees had also made it to the 1926 World Series (but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games), and this photograph of the 1926 team includes almost the entire 1927 lineup.
- Search across the American Memory collections on New York Yankees to find more historical images of a club for which both Roger Maris and Babe Ruth played.
- Browse the American Memory collection, Baseball Cards, 1887-1914, which contains a number of early baseball cards of Miller Huggins, a hall of fame second baseman, who, as a manager, led Babe Ruth and the Yankees to six pennants and a victory in the 1927 World Series.
- Find personal accounts of America's great pastime in American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940. Search the collection on baseball.
On October 1, 1903, the Boston Americans (soon to become the Red Sox) of the American League played the National League champion Pittsburgh Pirates in the first game of the modern World Series. Pittsburgh won the game by a score of seven to three, but lost the best of the nine-game series to Boston, five games to three.
The series was financially and popularly successful, but the arrangement to play was informal, depending only upon an agreement by the teams involved. The weakness of this arrangement became clear the following year when the manager of the National League pennant-winning New York Giants refused to play the American League champions, again the Boston Americans.
New York's unpopular decision led to public and press demands for resumption of the championship series. Prompted by the outcry, baseball's National Commission officially established the World Series in 1905. The World Series was played every year from 1905 to 1993—through two World Wars and the Depression. In 1994, however, the inability of players and owners to settle a strike resulted in the cancellation of much of the season and the World Series. The series resumed in 1995.
- Some of the game's greatest players have participated in the World Series, among them Ty Cobb, Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, and the unforgettable trio of Tinker, Evers, and Chance. Great managers have participated as well, including Connie Mack, the winningest manager in the history of baseball. To find even more images and stories about our great American pastime and its players search across the American Memory collections on baseball.
- Browse the American Memory collection Baseball Cards, 1887-1914 to see baseball greats pictured in this collection of 2,100 early baseball cards.
- Learn more about the history of the game. See the special presentation Early Baseball Pictures, 1860s - 1920s in the collection By Popular Demand: Jackie Robinson and Other Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s .
- Search the Today in History Archive on baseball to find more features about the boys of summer.